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SMS Queue: Understanding the Fundamentals

sms queue

In 2019, Americans sent 2.1 trillion text messages from their wireless devices.1 That’s an astonishing number, and when you do the math, it’s about 6,400 texts for every person in the United States.

Of course, organizations sent billions of those texts. However, many businesses don’t take advantage of this powerful communication medium and may not be aware that they can use text messaging to solve their queuing challenges.

SMS queuing uses texts—a technology most consumers are familiar with—to shorten wait times, increase operational efficiency, and improve the customer experience. Here’s a look at the fundamentals of text messaging and queue management.

do you need a queue management system infographic

What Is an SMS Queue?

SMS is an acronym for short messaging SMS service, which is simply the technical term for text messaging. An SMS queue sorts and manages a waiting line via texts customers receive on their smartphones.

Here’s how a mobile queue management system works: Customers, upon arriving at the store, approach the service counter and scan a QR code with their phones, send a text to a given number, or check in with an employee to enter the queue management system. People might also be allowed to check in via SMS ahead of time, before they reach your business.

The system sends notifications to customers, who are not required to wait near the service counter, to give them more information and alert them when their turns are close. The customers then return for service—often in a less ornery mood because they weren’t forced to stand in line or stay tethered to a cramped waiting area.

SMS Queue Features

The basics of SMS queuing are simple: Check in with your phone, get text notifications when it’s your time to receive service, and proceed to service. However, the best queuing systems offer much more beyond this straightforward process. Among the features of virtual queuing:

Updated Wait Times

After customers check in, the system can send them notifications updating them on wait times and their place in the queue. Any delays or other updates (e.g., “We’re adding a customer service representative to shorten your wait time!”) can also be delivered by text. Also, customers can text the system to drop out of the queue if they so choose.

Information Gathering

Texts are more than just a way to send and receive messages—they’re a conversation between your organization and your customers. You can gather more information on the customer’s needs—through, for example, a user- and smartphone-friendly online form—and the customer can ask questions and get answers before they reach the front of the virtual queue.

Promotional Offers

You already have the customer’s attention with text notifications, so take the next step by sending them promotional offers straight to their phones. These could be coupons, suggestions to visit a specific department in the store, notices of future sales, or anything that appeals to customers and offers them value.

Pros and Cons of SMS Queuing

A text message-based queue offers a variety of benefits for businesses and their customers. However, there are also a few caveats you should know about. Here are some pros and cons of queue management using SMS:


  • No separate app: With SMS queuing, customers won’t be forced to download an application onto their smartphones, which might feel inconvenient or even intrusive. This helps ensure people will use the system because it’s easy for them to do so.
  • Store browsing: Customers who enter a virtual queue are free to move about the store and shop while they wait. This increases basket size—an opportunity that might have been wasted if people were stuck waiting in a single small area of the store.
  • Increased top-line revenue: Besides increased basket size, revenue gets a boost from promotional offers sent to customers’ phones as they virtually wait. These offers can be set up so they’re valid long after the customer leaves the store—and because it’s in the form of a text message, it stays on someone’s phone until it is manually deleted.
  • Better customer experience: Few, if any, people enjoy waiting in a long line—but they accept that sometimes they must. With virtual queuing, customers can wait however they want to, knowing that updates are coming to them via text messages. Plus, even a long wait doesn’t seem as long when you’re free to move around. Customer satisfaction improves, which always benefits your business.
  • Better queue management: Most of the functions of an SMS queue are automated, meaning the system handles most of the details of sending texts, making decisions when customers enter the queue or respond to texts, and moving the queue along. Besides freeing up employees for other tasks (more on this next), SMS improves queue management, thus allowing more customers to be seen in less time.
  • Focused employees: The need to manage a chaotic queue inevitably pulls employees away from their responsibilities. Virtual queuing lets your staff keep their focus on the customer in front of them instead of the ones fidgeting in the waiting area. Furthermore, because you collected information from customers via text messaging while they waited, you’ll be better positioned to wow those customers at the time of service.
  • A captive audience: Once a customer has entered the queuing system and has been sent a text, they’re practically in your system for life. You can capture data from their visit and subsequent visits to better serve them and to inform your own strategy. Moreover, you can continue texting them offers and information so they stay connected with your business.


  • Camera requirement: Customers who don’t have a camera on their phones or aren’t comfortable scanning a QR code to enter the queue may feel left out or intimidated by the process. To overcome this, Qtrac’s platform provides a number your customers can text directly to check in.
  • Texting capacity: Though they are few and far between, customers who don’t own a cell phone, don’t have an SMS app on their phones, or refuse to use text messaging will not be able to use an SMS queue.
  • Cell reception: This has become less of a concern in recent history, but poor cell service at your location can prevent customers from receiving texts in a timely manner. Of course, cell reception might be based on the time of day, the carrier, and the weather, but if you consistently struggle to get a signal, consider carefully if SMS is the best solution to your queuing challenges.

At Qtrac, we know all about queuing challenges. See a demo to see what Qtrac can do for your organization.


do you need a queue management system infographic

1 https://www.ctia.org/news/report-2020-annual-survey-highlights

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